756 N Tyler Rd – Wichita, KS 67212 – (316) 721-5554 – augustinobrew.com
Find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @augustinobrew
The four founders of Augustino Brewing Company have decades of brewing and business expertise. They opened their brewpub in November 2017 and offer locally made craft beer along with special cocktails, coffee and a full range of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, sides and desserts. A calendar filled with special events provides their customers everything from a Mother’s Day brunch experience to a Cornhole Tournament Throwdown.
A majority woman-owned brewery, the business owners include Bianca and Augustine Iacopelli and Kara and Geoff Finn. Augustine Iacopelli recently provided some insights into Wichita’s growing brewery scene and the highlights of owning a small business.
Please tell us a little bit about your company.
We improve our community by creating daily moments of joy for our friends and neighbors. We do this through offering food and beverage experiences not available elsewhere. We feature an American cuisine food menu, a 3.5 barrel brewery that our bar guests can look into, and a full coffee and cocktail bar. If you’re looking for a place to bring a party for drinks, there will be something nearly everyone in your group can enjoy. We also feature special seminars and events in “Beerology” and mixology and host intimate tours of our brewhouse on Saturday afternoons at 3 p.m.
Describe your business’ most recent success.
Every day we have guests coming through our doors and trying out our beers for the first or fiftieth time. Each week, our team has become stronger as we bring on additional A-players that see they are getting in on the ground floor of something really cool and unique in the brewing and restaurant industry. It’s difficult to quality when you’re a startup company and may not be able to offer all the perks of other companies, so you have to find team members who see the big picture and realize the best is yet to come.
To what do you attribute your success?
Never being afraid to fail and never being afraid of being the dumbest guy in the room. Surrounding yourself with smart people who have learned lessons before you is important. Also, trying to absorb (and filter) as much information as possible, while thinking about what might be applicable to what you are trying to accomplish is important.
What differentiates your business from your competitors?
We focus on building relationships with our guests by offering our Ultimate Mug Club, which is our “gym membership without the sweat and a lot more beer!” For one flat price each month, members get beers and coffee included in their membership along with additional discounts. All their beers and coffees are served in our signature 20oz stoneware mugs instead of our pub pint glasses.
We’re also the only brewery in the area that both features a full coffee and mixology bar. There are specialty coffees and cocktails that are available at Augustino Brewing that you cannot get anywhere else. One example of this is Lu’s Habitude. This is a Cuban coffee nitro collaboration between Augustino Brewing and Nitro Joe’s. It can be ordered with or without alcohol and is fantastic either way.
We also produce a podcast called “What’s Brewing with Augustino.” This originated to simply create content to improve our website ranking on Google and other search engines. I’d created over 100 episodes prior to opening our doors and didn’t necessarily intend to continue producing them. However, shortly after we opened, people started asking our staff if I was planning to do new episodes for the show. So, we’re starting the show back up, currently via Facebook Live, with archives going to our channel on SoundCloud, iTunes, and our Augustino Brewing blog on our website. It’s a fun way to get our news and events out to fans.
What is something people may not know about your business?
Very few people realize that Augustino Brewing is either the only or one of the only majority women-owned breweries in the state of Kansas and among a handful of women-owned breweries in the region. Even though the sign says Augustino, which people associate with me because of the closeness in name, my spouse Bianca Iacopelli, owns over 60% of the business outright and is our financial hero behind the scenes that makes Augustino Brewing happen.
Where do you see your business in five years?
We’d like to expand our business into additional locations bringing our craft food and beverage experiences to additional communities in the Wichita area and beyond. We’ve been asked many times about distributing our product on a larger scale. We very recently signed a distribution contract and you’ll start seeing Augustino Brewing on draft in some of the finer craft beer establishments in the immediate Wichita area. That stated, we are not in a hurry for mass distribution. All the movement currently in craft beer is toward smaller-scale and local establishments. People want beer that’s made near them in many cases, which is why the regional and national brewery markets are struggling. We believe that we are building a model that is scalable, while still allowing for localized innovation and community involvement.
What about your business are you most passionate?
As a homebrewer for about 20 years, the craft beer side of the business is the focus of my passion. However, our ownership team realizes scaling our business requires looking beyond the beer to having a passion for the food and beverage category in general. One thing that is concerning to the craft beer industry right now, is that many younger drinkers are not drinking craft beer, or drinking less of it than their parents’ generation. Just like macro beer was my generation’s “parents’ drink of choice,” and thus not as “cool” as craft beer to people around my age, “craft beer” is becoming that way for the younger generation as they seek out other beverage categories. Because we offer high-end mixology and craft coffee in house in addition to our beer, we’re able to bridge the gap between generations and offer unique products not available at our other area competitors. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to recruit some of the top bartenders and mixologists in the area that bring a level of creativity and passion to other beverage areas. Their enthusiasm for what they do excites me as well and adds significant value to the Augustino Brewing Company brand as a whole.
Is your company involved in any community/civic activities?
We love participating in area philanthropic events, particularly those that support causes helping disadvantaged children and women escaping trafficking and abuse in the community.
What unique beverage can people find at Augustino Brewing Company?
We feature the only nitrogenized Cuban coffee beverage in town, if not anywhere. Lu’s Nitro Habitude Cafecito packs a huge punch in terms of caffeine and sweetness and was our first collaboration on a beverage project with Nitro Joe’s. The reaction we’ve gotten from everyone who has tried it is… “WOW, that’s amazing.”
Why did you join the Chamber and what do you think will be most valuable about Chamber membership?
We believe we’re uniquely positioned as a business that can cater to other businesses. By being one of only two brewpubs currently in town with separate seating areas that can handle groups of over 100 with a full kitchen, we’re able to cater to groups looking for unique food and beverage experiences for both their employees and clients. Before we even opened our doors we were receiving phone calls to book special events and meals at our location and have found that our business clientele was higher than we originally predicted. We look forward to working with fellow Chamber members on planning special events at Augustino Brewing Company in the future.
What is your favorite Chamber event, program, or service and why?
Thus far, I’ve only been to one event which was Networking at Noon at Hopping Gnome Brewing. I enjoyed myself and the fact that there were a number of people I knew there from other professional circles.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how strongly would you recommend Chamber membership to a colleague? Why?
Honestly, the jury is still out for me as I’m a new member. If it’s like many other things I have been involved with in my professional career, the more you invest into an organization the more you’ll get out of it. We’re happy to continue to explore the many resources and opportunities the Chamber has and hope to continue to grow with the Chamber.
Are there other Chamber members that you do business with?
Several, perhaps most notably Heartland Credit Union, who played a very significant role in making Augustino Brewing Company a reality.
What is your biggest challenge as a small business?
What’s not a big challenge as a small business startup?! Paying down debts and keeping money coming in, while refining business practices and constantly trying to improve on shoestring budgets. We’ve definitely seen increased business since the beginning of the year, but it’s always a struggle. We go by the mantra, “If we help enough other people and philanthropic organizations where we can, we’ll wind up building good karma in the community and helping ourselves in the process.”
What’s the best thing about being a small business?
Being a “jack of all trades” is finally paying off! I’ve probably learned more in the past six months than the past twenty years. Business ownership is fraught with challenges, but each one is like trying to solve a puzzle and is extremely engaging and exciting.
What’s your best piece of advice for new small business owners?
I’ll pass along some good advice I received from another business owner: “Remember, the highs are never as high as they feel, nor are the lows as low.”
Something you wish you’d known before you started your business?
Nothing really prepares you for the mental, emotional, and physical toll starting a business can take. You can “know” the things you will face as you deal with the challenges and triumphs of owning and operating a business, but there isn’t anything that lessens the impact ownership has on your well-being and the importance of making time to recover and recuperate, even when it feels like there is no time to do so.
WICHITA BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Why do you like doing business in the Wichita area?
Because it’s a great city with great people. All of our owners are “transplants” from other parts of the country and settled down in Wichita because it’s a gem that many people who have grown up here are only now starting to realizing. There’s a wonderful resurgence in the entrepreneurial community that provides support to local businesses and entrepreneurs trying to bring their ideas and projects to reality.
Favorite business app? Why?
Evernote Premium is the BOMB! It pretty much ties my business and personal life together no matter where I’m at. I also live off the business card scanning tool when networking. It’s nice to be able to just scan the cards you receive and have them automatically saved and filed within Evernote and in your contact lists simultaneously, not to mention automatically searching to see if the contact is on LinkedIn and available to connect.
Favorite business book? Why?
Winning by Jack Welsh is a pretty easy read, albeit a little longer than many business books, but many of the principles are rock solid regardless of your industry.
Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell cuts to the bare bones principles of creating a great customer experience. It’s based on his years in hospitality at Hilton, Marriot, and Walt Disney World.
Start Here by Clay Clark, Johnathan Kelly, and Marshall Morris is a beast of a book. It literally outlines the steps of starting a successful business in an actionable manner, complete with accompanying website, templates and business podcast.
SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS
What’s the most effective social media tool for your business? Why?
Right now, it’s definitely Hootsuite. We’ve set up months of “timeless” posts for our feeds to give us a good baseline of communication with our audience that we augment with our more timely photos, videos, and events that we drop in on a more ad hoc basis.
How many hours per week do you devote to connecting with your customers and partners on social media?
It can vary, but the short answer is a lot. As a new business, social media is a very cost effective way to reach our specific audience and test marketing and branding messages before trying to scale our messaging to a wider audience.